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Duck broody on golf balls, not laying

 
Nicole Alderman
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My Golden 300 duck appears to have made a nest in the nesting box. I had put two golf balls and a fake egg in the nesting box to encourage laying, and for a while it was working. She and another duck were each laying eggs in there every day. We then got three new ducks (all of which are laying), and the Golden 300 has stopped laying. BUT, she still goes in there and sits on the fake eggs. She comes out to eat and is only in there when I'm not out, but the nest is always warm and there are never any eggs.

Yesterday, I took away the golf balls, leaving only the fake egg. She still is sitting on the nest, not laying. What's wrong with her, and how do I get her to start laying again?

(In other news, NONE of my original flock of ducks is laying. There are five ducks, one almost two years old, and the other four are almost a year old). They've been off and on laying for months, and I'd get maybe one-two eggs per day, than the egg layer(s) would stop and another one would start up. At first, I though it was due to stress--they're timed light would go out with power outages, so I stopped using it. A few months later, one of the ducks got eaten by something. But, we just got three new ducks, and they started laying a day or two after arriving. So, why aren't mine?! We now have a total of 10 ducks: 2 ancona drakes, 3 ancona females, two blue runner ducks, one Golden 300 duck, and the three new anconas. Their coop is 8x8 feet, with four attached nesting boxes, and one nesting nook in the middle of the coop. They have free range of about 1,700 sqft, the middle 1/3 is sheltered by salmonberry, the rest is grass. For about 1-3 hours a day, I watch them forage on our 5 acres, with a pond. I dare not let them forage out there unwatched, as they've been known to get eaten in broad daylight. We've had our new ducks for 6 days now. I feed them 2 pounds of feed that gets fermented per day, which is five cups of feed. I used to do only four cups, but have been increasing as it doesn't seem to be enough. Could lack of food be causing broodiness and lack of laying?)

Here's some pictures of the eggs that our Golden 300 and another duck were laying, compared to the three larger eggs that our new ducks are laying. Here's a picture of our older ducks, too (I'll try to get a better picture without sunshine glare).

Thanks for all the help!
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New duck eggs, compared to our older ducks eggs
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Picture of our older ducks, the Golden 300 in the middle
 
Miranda Converse
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When a bird decides to go broody, they will stop laying until their broodiness is resolved. You will either need to give her some fertile eggs to hatch or break her of her broodiness. They don't care that they are sitting on nothing. My chickens will sit on nothing until they see a hen lay in another box, then they just move.
I have only had one duck go broody (but tons of broody chickens) and I unintentionally broke her of her broodiness. She made a nest in an unprotected area and I just tried to move her to the protected pen where they sleep. She kept trying to go back to her nest and I finally just locked her in the pen for the night. Did this twice and she was over it. Maybe keeping her from her nest for a bit will work.
With my chickens, I usually just give them eggs or chicks. One hen apparently wasn't ready for chicks or didn't like the ones I gave her and she mauled them. So I chose to break her broodiness instead. The key to break them is to put them in a wire bottom cage for a few days. I guess once their bottoms cool off the desire leaves them. I dunno why, chickens are weird. I assume the same would work for a duck though.

As far as laying, are you sure they are not hiding them? My ducks are crazy secretive about laying their eggs. There were months where they would hide their nest, I would find it, and then they would move to a new nest. I finally have them laying consistently in the nesting box I gave them by leaving a single egg there every day.
There are all sorts of reasons they might stop laying though. They could also be stressed from seeing the one duck get eaten, especially if it happened near the nesting box. Lack of calcium or other nutrients could be an issue. Being egg-bound is possible although doubtful that it would affect more than one...
 
Guerric Kendall
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I've never seen anything that can prompt a duck into laying. Golf balls don't seem to work as well as they do for chickens. Ducks just choose when and where they want to lay. I find the best flocks simply have a lot of ducks, so they can rely on some when others are not laying. But this is the season for them to start egg production, so I hope that changes for you soon.

Just one thing, is that 5 cups really enough for them? The standard dry feed amount for ducks is 0.30 lb per duck and for 10 ducks, that would be 3lbs, not 2. So that could be a factor.

 
Nicole Alderman
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Guerric Kendall wrote:I've never seen anything that can prompt a duck into laying. Golf balls don't seem to work as well as they do for chickens. Ducks just choose when and where they want to lay. I find the best flocks simply have a lot of ducks, so they can rely on some when others are not laying. But this is the season for them to start egg production, so I hope that changes for you soon.

Just one thing, is that 5 cups really enough for them? The standard dry feed amount for ducks is 0.30 lb per duck and for 10 ducks, that would be 3lbs, not 2. So that could be a factor.



Yeah, I've been wondering if that's the problem. It's hard knowing how much to give them when they are foraging, but when we got our new ducks and they were so much larger than our other ducks of the same breed, I really started wondering if they just weren't feeding them enough. Supposedly fermenting their feed cuts down on the amount they need by 1/3rd to 1/2, and I know overfeeding can reduce egg laying, too (for a while, my husband was doing the feeding, and he was giving them so much that they still hadn't eaten it all hours later...and were not motivated to go home or forage).

But, the size difference could also just be that the person we bought our new ducks from might not have been very good at keeping the breed clean, as one of the "anconas" is huge and all white and another has very non-ancona markings...and those are the two largest of the ducks.

I really wish I am better at gauging sizes and knowing what's "normal" for a healthy duck size and weight. Here's some pictures of the ducks. Do they look a healthy weight to you?

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Our ducks. The broody duck is the all brown duck in the back right. The new ducks are on the left: all white, mostly brown, and the mostly white one.
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Our new "anconas."
 
Nicole Alderman
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Miranda Converse wrote:When a bird decides to go broody, they will stop laying until their broodiness is resolved. You will either need to give her some fertile eggs to hatch or break her of her broodiness. They don't care that they are sitting on nothing. My chickens will sit on nothing until they see a hen lay in another box, then they just move.
I have only had one duck go broody (but tons of broody chickens) and I unintentionally broke her of her broodiness. She made a nest in an unprotected area and I just tried to move her to the protected pen where they sleep. She kept trying to go back to her nest and I finally just locked her in the pen for the night. Did this twice and she was over it. Maybe keeping her from her nest for a bit will work.
With my chickens, I usually just give them eggs or chicks. One hen apparently wasn't ready for chicks or didn't like the ones I gave her and she mauled them. So I chose to break her broodiness instead. The key to break them is to put them in a wire bottom cage for a few days. I guess once their bottoms cool off the desire leaves them. I dunno why, chickens are weird. I assume the same would work for a duck though.

As far as laying, are you sure they are not hiding them? My ducks are crazy secretive about laying their eggs. There were months where they would hide their nest, I would find it, and then they would move to a new nest. I finally have them laying consistently in the nesting box I gave them by leaving a single egg there every day.
There are all sorts of reasons they might stop laying though. They could also be stressed from seeing the one duck get eaten, especially if it happened near the nesting box. Lack of calcium or other nutrients could be an issue. Being egg-bound is possible although doubtful that it would affect more than one...


She seems to be doing better. When I went out today, she was foraging with the other ducks, and not in the nesting box. We'll see if she lays, though!

I do frequently search for eggs outside the house, but never find any. That doesn't mean they aren't burying them in the leaves under the salmonberries, though! But, supposedly ducks are supposed to lay before 9:00am, so if they're kept co-oped up until then, they should have finished all they're laying. I don't let mine out until a little after 10:00am (was 9:00am standard time, but then Daylight Savings happened), so I'd think they'd get it all out of their system by then.

I've been wondering about the stress, too. Some of them have molted--I think--twice since October (when half the flock got eaten by bobcat). I'm sure the stress of the lighting didn't help, nor the more recent loss of a duck about 2 weeks ago. But, how long will it take them to recover? I've also noticed that our two males also don't seem to be thinking it's spring. The girls will all be splashing happily in the pond and the boys just keep eating the grass and leave the ladies alone. Last year, they sure were a lot more....romantic... I even checked my posts last year (http://www.permies.com/t/44980/ducks/critters/aggressive-female-ducks-added-flock) and the males were active last year at the beginning of March...

Here's some pictures of our duck house and nesting boxes, in case that helps in diagnosing the problem. We do deep litter method with pine shaving.
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View of the inside of our duck house. Heat lamp in the corner. I could probably remove it now, but I'm afraid of stressing them with the change!
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Nesting boxes. There's four there, elevated over a pit (long story on the pit). The have wire bottoms with pine shavings inside
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The nesting box of broody-ness.
 
Guerric Kendall
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Nicole Alderman wrote:
Guerric Kendall wrote:I've never seen anything that can prompt a duck into laying. Golf balls don't seem to work as well as they do for chickens. Ducks just choose when and where they want to lay. I find the best flocks simply have a lot of ducks, so they can rely on some when others are not laying. But this is the season for them to start egg production, so I hope that changes for you soon.

Just one thing, is that 5 cups really enough for them? The standard dry feed amount for ducks is 0.30 lb per duck and for 10 ducks, that would be 3lbs, not 2. So that could be a factor.



Yeah, I've been wondering if that's the problem. It's hard knowing how much to give them when they are foraging, but when we got our new ducks and they were so much larger than our other ducks of the same breed, I really started wondering if they just weren't feeding them enough. Supposedly fermenting their feed cuts down on the amount they need by 1/3rd to 1/2, and I know overfeeding can reduce egg laying, too (for a while, my husband was doing the feeding, and he was giving them so much that they still hadn't eaten it all hours later...and were not motivated to go home or forage).

But, the size difference could also just be that the person we bought our new ducks from might not have been very good at keeping the breed clean, as one of the "anconas" is huge and all white and another has very non-ancona markings...and those are the two largest of the ducks.

I really wish I am better at gauging sizes and knowing what's "normal" for a healthy duck size and weight. Here's some pictures of the ducks. Do they look a healthy weight to you?


I wouldn't go by supposed numbers. 1/3rd to a 1/2 is very vague and can make a large difference. I'd start by feeding them a little too much, then cut down as necessary. A bird that's a little on the fat side is better off than one that's thin.

I've fed fermented feed before, but never weighed how much they ate. I go by how much my animals can eat in a 10 or 15 minute period. This would result in say, a "cropful" of feed, which should be enough for the night. I say night because I don't feed mine in the morning so they forage throughout the day, then top off whatever they couldn't get at the end of it.

Honestly, I don't really believe overfeeding is a problem. Many flock owners just fill up the feeder and leave them to eat what they want. This is obviously for coop-bound birds and not those you want to free-range, but it does work for many people. There are occasionally a few exceptions, but birds are just not as prone to overeating as mammals often will.

Yes, they do look like they're at a good size. But really, picking them up is a better gauge. I've seen birds that were all plump feathers but losing weight underneath. This might be a bit vague, but perhaps you could try and see if they're as heavy as they look?
 
Nicole Alderman
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I measure it by cups simply because that's the scoop I use when filling up my fermenting jar. I actually had to weigh the cups to see how many pounds I've been feeding them. I hadn't realized it wasn't actually the recommended pounds . I actually feed them three times a day, about half in the morning, half when I lure them back to their yard after they free range, and a little bit at night to lure them into their house. I'd feed them everything at night, except their poop is just too overwhelming, even with the deep litter method (as it is, I usually scrape the biggest poops off the top of the bedding and put them in a bucket, turn the bedding, and then sprinkle some new dry bedding on top if it needs it. Since it's been raining so very much this year, and the rain comes through the ventilation in the walls, the bedding gets really unsanitary if there's too much poo). I try not to over feed, because our organic feed is expensive and our budget is tight. But, I also don't want to mistreat the ducks, and I'm wondering if I have been, unknowingly . Their crops do get really full after they eat, though...

I'm wondering for gauging their size, if looking at their necks would be a good way? I notice that my ducks necks look quite a bit skinnier than our new duck (which were fed broiler feed before we got them, so I don't know if they're a good benchmark). Their necks have also been getting thicker as I feed them more. I'll also have my husband pick them up and weigh them, as he's a lot better at gauging such things than I am.

I'll start fermenting 6 cups instead of 5, and see if that helps.

 
Samantha Lewis
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If you under feed them they will not put on as much fat. This is a serious problem if you are relying on your animals to provide you with a main source of your yearly fat. I do not think their size and stature would be much different after only one generation of potential underfeeding. Rather I would say they may be healthier because with less grain in front of them they will go looking for something else to eat.
 
Samantha Lewis
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With regard to broody Mamas you can be thankful for her help and willingness to raise the next generation and get her some fertile eggs to sit on. This time of year that is easy to do and you can choose any breed you want and have them mailed or ask your friends for some. If she has been sitting for a while and she trusts you you can get day old babies and go to her in the middle of the night and exchange one at a time for the fake eggs.

Other than that to try to end brooding quickly you can find a way to have cool or cold air blow on the nesting area. Leave the egg box doors open in the day time. Make it less cozy.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Update on the Broody Duck: I took the fake egg yesterday, and she stayed off the nest for the rest of the day until I put the ducks away. Then she ran for her nesting box. In the morning, she had made her nest again and laid an egg. I took her egg. Hopefully she won't decide to go be broody elsewhere. I'm hoping that since she hasn't been too devoted to being broody, she'll keep laying. I really don't want her hiding somewhere else on my property to make her nest--she'll likely get eaten!

With regard to broody Mamas you can be thankful for her help and willingness to raise the next generation and get her some fertile eggs to sit on. This time of year that is easy to do and you can choose any breed you want and have them mailed or ask your friends for some. If she has been sitting for a while and she trusts you you can get day old babies and go to her in the middle of the night and exchange one at a time for the fake eggs.


If I had eggs to get hatched, I would definitely let her hatch them. I don't really want ancona/Golden 300 hybrids (which her eggs would be), and my other ducks aren't really laying much, and the boys don't seem very interested in making ducklings right now, so I don't know if the eggs are fertile. I also want to figure out why they're not laying before I get more ducks, in case there's something I'm doing wrong.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Another Duckpdate: (Yes, Duck+Update=Duckpdate. I am that lame .)

So far, it looks like my efforts paid off on the Broody Golden 300. Her nest was cold with an egg in it this morning, and there were no more broody poops. It looks like she's good for now. Yay!

As for figuring out why the other ducks aren't laying, I'm thinking it really is that I've just not been feeding them enough . The new ducks that I got are laying smaller and smaller eggs. They're not that much smaller, but they are obviously not as big as they used to be. They just must not be getting enough calories, even with foraging. Today, I fed them, let them out, and then after about 2 hours they went back to their yard and stayed there for 20 minutes, yelling at me. It was pretty obvious that they wanted more food. I gave them more food, and then they wanted back out to forage. Either there isn't enough out there to forage, they're not foraging well enough, or they just need that extra source of easy calories for making eggs. Either way, more food will be coming their way!
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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